is taylor swift more affirming than madonna? and other burning questions

madonna in her bracelets! worn pre-internet!

Ada, I kept trying to come up with a sustained response to your post, but I’m feeling stereotypically feminine and non-linear today. Nevertheless, some thoughts:

  • Jealous about Lady Gaga! Post photos! The one time I had a chance to see her I was busy writing a paper. Anyway, I’m interested in your idea that pop culture today is more affirming than it was when we were teenagers. We had Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Alanis Morissette, Liz Phair, Salt ‘n Pepa, Mary J. Blige, etc. I feel the same way about pop culture icons now as I did then: that a lot of them are a mix of feminist-y and regressive. For example, I think it’s cool that Taylor Swift writes her own music, but I think her lyrics are really retro. When she asks Romeo to save her and then he says, “I talked to your dad/go pick out a white dress.” HE TALKED TO HER DAD?! Does Taylor know it’s 2010?! But, seriously, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, which I think are different from mine. I am totally open to reconsideration.

  • As for Katie Roiphe, I feel like the letters the NYTBR published mirrored a lot of the points we made when discussing her essay. I was most interested in the one that said young male writers find themselves in “a world in which sex has become entirely ironic, and thus detached from real emotion” and so “they find that the most emotional moments are no longer sexual.” I’m interested in this comment—though I’m not exactly sure it’s true—because this seems really different from what we were talking about the other day with Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette, etc., for whom sex is definitely still emotional. “Fuck and Run” and “You Oughta Know” are NOT ironic. They sound like the kind of songs some talented Taylor Swift fan is going to write in five years when she is in her junior year at Vassar and super-pissed about the distance between the romantic songs she grew up with and the reality of college gender politics. (Okay, I’m projecting a little.)
  • Meanwhile, I would love to hear more about what you have to say about all the NYT stories on women making more money than men. My favorite article, as you can imagine, is this one, which opens with a story about a woman breaking up with her blue collar boyfriend, who is so insecure about her success. The piece then backlash-ily claims, “An analysis of census data to be released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that she and countless women like her are victims of a role reversal that is profoundly affecting the pool of potential marriage partners.” (COUNTLESS WOMEN! VICTIMS!) The two things that struck me about these articles is that most assume everyone wants to get married and that they keep talking about the importance of marrying someone with the same educational and economic background because that way you will have the same “values.” I am definitely not comfortable with what seem to be the very classist implications of this idea.
  • I also want to thank you for posting these amazing Ashley Dupre stories. I am reading her NY Post dating column right now and it is making me die laughing. She tells this guy who wants to get involved with one of his female friends to “dress and smell sexier” (I honestly don’t know how a guy would do this) and then take her out for a romantic dinner and tell her what he wants in a girlfriend and wife. Note to all of my male friends who are secretly in love with me: please don’t freak me out this way.

And lastly, I am so excited for our panel on “Pre-Internet Teen Bedroom Culture” at EMP! This is gonna be the best part. I’m also excited about Our Hit Parade tonight.


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